Gua Sha therapy is still quite foreign and new to the Western world despite being around for hundreds of years. We pored over articles, books, and videos on this ancient healing art but couldn’t find anything which really helped ordinary folks understand all it has to offer. This article will give you an overview of what Gua Sha therapy is all about and the potential benefits it offers to people with certain health condition.
What is Gua Sha Therapy?
Before we answer that question, we first need to know something about the human body.
The human body is made up of approximately 7 octillion atoms or about 7 X 1027 atoms. That’s seven followed 27 zeroes! Those atoms interact with each to produce a fascinating multifarious yet flawlessly harmonious dance of life. The body is not merely a sophisticated machine – it’s a work of art.
The human body has been studied by all kinds of people for ages. Their combined effort has led to a wealth of knowledge that has been accumulated over time, and with the leaps in medical and scientific technology available to us today, we’re finding more and more fascinating things about it every day. Still, we’re a long way from knowing everything there is to know and yes, there is still a lot to learn.
One reason we still do not fully understand the human body is because as we learn more about it, the more staggering its intricacies become. Physicians are capable of doing wondrous things for injured or sick people, but medical science still has more questions than answers.
New discoveries in people’s understanding of the basic principles in science – especially, those related to the field of particle physics – have complicated things further. Scientific studies have led to the understanding that atoms are not the solid particles we once thought they were. Physicists instead now hypothesize that all matter is made of strings of energy. This is brilliantly explained in Brian Greene’s paradigm-changing book, The Elegant Universe:
“The most important idea of string theory is quite simple. If you observe ever more finely any piece of matter, you’ll first find molecules, atoms, and then sub-atomic particles. Observe these infinitesimally small particles even more intently and you’ll find something else, a flimsy vibrating filament of energy, a very, very tiny vibrating string of energy.”
Parallel to our evolving understanding of the physical universe and of physics is a fascinating development in the field of medical science. Medical researchers have begun to entirely overhaul our concepts about how the body and mind closely work to create either illness or health.
Rather than thinking about the body as a machine whose parts can be replaced and repaired by the taking of medications, (the way a mechanic repairs an engine with lubricants and spares), now, we see it as a choreography of living energy – a living and ever active whole.
Alongside this paradigm shift, more and more people are turning to natural and alternative modes of treatment for relief like holistic therapies, tai chi, yoga, and Traditional Chinese Medicine. They use these therapies to treat illnesses that modern Western medicine doesn’t have a cure for yet.
For instance, the International Journal of Health Sciences reported that “the number of people utilizing alternative medicine seems to be rising. A study conducted in 1998 revealed that in the US, the use of alternative medicine in the USA increased from 34.8 percent in 1990 to 42.1 percent in 1997.”
And this trend continues to gather momentum by the year.
Many previously unnoticed healing methods are now being gradually accepted by medical science. Some of these methods, including gua sha, have been around for thousands of years. Studies show that they are more beneficial than they had first believed. Well, if a treatment works, there must be a scientific basis to it somewhere. Recently, more resources have been allocated to investigate these forms of medical procedures.
The change to a more natural alternative form of treatment is a positive one. A lot of medical doctors, specialists and physicians are now looking for ways to integrate alternative medical treatments to their conventional clinical practices. A synergistic combination of these two medical systems makes sense, and will result in a better form of healthcare for all people.
In Western countries, we’ve developed a habit of taking drugs and antibiotics. But as people start to realize the side effects, this is becoming less and less popular. People now understand that being healthy takes more than just regular visits to the doctor, and that prevention is better than cure. Good exercise habits, a healthy balanced diet and a healthy mental and emotional life go together with healthy bodies.
Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM is one of the many ancient healing arts that are being re-evaluated and re-discovered by modern medical science.
One of the hidden gems of TCM is Gua sha. Unfortunately, it is still little-known in the West despite being well-known and widely used in Asian communities.
Gua Sha Therapy
Acupuncturist and American researcher Dr. Arya Nielsen is considered to be the leading authority on the subject. According to her gua sha is “A traditional East Asian healing technique that’s sometimes referred to as ‘scraping, spooning, or coining.’ Gua sha involves an instrument-aided, one directional press-stroking of a lubricated area of the body surface to deliberately generate temporary therapeutic petechiae known as ‘sha’ which represents extravasation of blood in the subcutaneous region of the body.”
The practitioner strokes a part of the body, such as the back or neck of the patient using a specially designed instrument or a smooth stone, along with the proper oils for lubrication. The skin starts to turn red after a few moments, and then a certain type of marking begins to appear on the skin.
You might mistake the markings for bruises if you’ve never seen this technique done before but that’s not exactly what they are. The scraping instrument is blunt and the skin does not get broken. If the procedure is done appropriately, it will not cause pain.
Tiny blood vessels called capillaries begin to generate the petechiae or “sha,” which is considered a good sign because it indicates that toxins are released from the blood and that circulation is vigorously stimulated in the area. The “sha,” also has an immune protective and anti-inflammatory effect that lasts for days after a session of Gua sha.
Gua sha therapy provides almost instant relief from congestion and pain freeing up a wider range of movement in the ligaments and joints.
Gua sha is used on a regular basis by millions of people in some parts of Asia for instant relief from nausea, wheezing, cough, chill, fever, stiffness pain, etc. It also works for chronic and acute internal organ conditions including hepatitis or liver inflammation.
In Vietnam, gua sha is called Cao Gio. It traces its roots in the vanishing tradition of the “Wandering Buddhist Monks.” While the practice is widespread, even today, this tradition goes back many hundreds of years. It’s typical to see gua sha used by Vietnamese people in their homes.
Only in recent years that this treatment has been widely accepted and has become widely known in the West.
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Saratoga Springs, NY 12866